Beyond The Clouds comes out on top after thrilling feature race finale at Warwick Racecourse
BEYOND The Clouds, trained at Over Norton by Charlie Longsdon and ridden by the season's leading jockey Brian Hughes, came out on top in a thrilling finish to the Class 3 Barry Smith Memorial Novices' Limited Handicap Chase, feature race of Warwick's Great Autumn Meeting on Thursday, writes David Hucker.
A winner of two of his previous five chases this season, Beyond The Clouds carries the familiar orange and black colours of owner Robert Aplin and came to jump the final fence alongside favourite Any News and top-weight Friend Or Foe, who had set out to make all the running under Harry Cobden.
There was little to choose between the three on the run to the line, with Hughes putting Beyond The Clouds head in front where it mattered to beat Any News by a neck, with Friend Or Foe three-quarters of a length away in third.
After a quiet summer, trainer Dan Skelton is gradually stepping up the number of runners from his Alcester yard and he struck with Whispering Gypsy in the opening Pertemps Network Mares' "National Hunt" Novices' Hurdle.
Owned by Foxtrot Racing, Whispering Gypsy led into the home straight and ran on strongly to see off the challenge of Cup Of Coffee by three lengths.
Royal Pretender was made favourite to get off the mark over hurdles in the following Agetur UK Maiden Hurdle and, after being held up by Tom Cannon for much of the two miles and five furlongs trip, came through to collar San Fermin at the penultimate flight and go away to score by eight lengths.
Bumper winner San Fermin, third on his hurdling debut at Stratford in June, had been prominent throughout, leading four flights from home, and looks a future winner in the making.
Oscar Montel finished down the field in a chase at Market Rasen five days ago but, reverting to hurdles, made a bold bid to carry top weight in the Class 3 Ignite Handicap Hurdle.
Always in the front two, he jumped the last flight with Breaking Waves and Crystal Gazing, who had made headlines for all the wrong reasons at the last meeting when running out at halfway in her race.
There was no such drama this time, as Crystal Gazing and Nico de Boinville came out on top in another close finish, beating Breaking Waves by a length with Oscar Montel back in third.
Fat Sam, who won well at Stratford before returning to the course to finish runner-up to the rejuvenated Goa Lil, was back in the winner's enclosure after landing the Colliers Saves Business Rates Handicap Chase.
Dan Skelton's four-year-old Shentri set out to make all the running but, despite having top weight, Fat Sam overhauled him on the run-in to prevail by a neck.
Found On, not seen out since finishing runner-up at Southwell in May, made every yard of the running to land the June Watts, Supporting The Air Ambulance Mares' Handicap Hurdle in the hands of Sean Bowen.
Howdilyoudo, held up early on, ran on to finish second, but could make no impression on the winner who became the third winning favourite of the afternoon.
Although only attracting four runners, the Dreamland Bedding Open National Hunt Flat Race looked a competitive affair and, in a close betting heat, it was Fine By Me who just shaded favouritism at the off.
In a steadily-run race, Lyrical Genius, bought for £32,000 after winning his only point -to-point in April, went to the front and, when the runners sprinted turning for home, held off the challenge of top-weight Ted's Friend to make it a double for Longsdown and Hughes.
The closing Jockey Club Challenge Charity Race for amateur riders in aid of Air Ambulance went to seven-time winner Back On The Lash and his regular work rider Beth Whittle, beating Across The Line and The Late Legend.